by Staff Writers
Hanoi (AFP) June 5, 2011
Several hundred people gathered for a rare protest in front of China's embassy in Hanoi on Sunday, against the alleged invasion of Vietnamese territory by Chinese ships in disputed waters.
Bearing signs such as "Protesting against China causing trouble", the group of about 300 met quietly for half an hour before peacefully dispersing, on the request of 50 armed policemen who monitored the rally.
Demonstrations are unusual in communist Vietnam, but the rally followed a heightening of tensions with Beijing linked to a long-standing dispute in the South China Sea.
In May, Chinese surveillance ships confronted a Vietnamese oil exploration vessel in the region, which Hanoi deemed to be a violation of its sovereignty and a breach of the UN convention on the law of the sea.
Vietnam accused China of expanding the scope of the dispute and demanded that Beijing pay compensation for damage allegedly inflicted to the Vietnamese vessel. China has told Vietnam to end its activities in the contested waters.
The two countries are at odds over the sovereignty of the Paracel archipelago and the more southerly Spratlys in the South China Sea, both potentially resource-rich outcrops that straddle strategic shipping lanes.
"We come here wishing the government would have some measures to protect national sovereignty," said a 50-year-old private company employee at Sunday's rally.
A student, aged 21, said the group was demonstrating "because we feel humiliated".
Protesting is a risky business in Vietnam, and activists involved in previous anti-Beijing demonstrations have faced arrest.
Similar street protests in 2007 backed the government stance that the disputed islands belong to Vietnam, but they embarrassed the leadership, which received a stern rebuke from China for allowing the rallies.
"We record your patriotism but the issue of territorial sovereignty must be solved in the spirit of international law and UN conventions," one of the police officers announced to Sunday's group through a handheld loudspeaker.
China's increasingly assertive role in the South China Sea has raised tensions with other countries in the region, but Beijing vowed at a Singapore security forum on Sunday to work for "peace and stability" in the waters.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also claim all or part of the territories in question, and renewed tensions drew a warning on Saturday from the United States that the disputes could lead to armed conflict.
earlier related report
Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told a security forum attended by China's Defence Minister Liang Guanglie that "actions by other states ... unnecessarily make other states like the Philippines worried and concerned".
"Such a sense of insecurity also results when ordinary fishermen are warned by foreign vessels prompting them to leave the area," he said.
Gazmin's remarks came after Manila on Saturday accused China of undermining peace and stability in Asia by allegedly sending naval vessels to intimidate rival claimants in the disputed Spratly islands.
Manila has also queried Beijing over plans reported in Chinese state media to install an oil rig in the area.
Gazmin said that "insecurity is generated when materials for possibly constructing certain structures are found in areas where a declaration has been made to refrain from putting up such kinds of structure or infrastructure".
He was speaking after Liang told the forum that China was committed to "peace and stability" in the South China Sea.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had told the conference on Saturday that clashes may erupt unless nations with conflicting claims adopt a mechanism to settle disputes peacefully.
The Spratly and Paracel archipelagos, believed to hold major oil and gas reserves, are claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Vietnam's Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh told the Singapore meeting that "we expect China to honour the policies that they announced" and expressed hope that the statements "translate into reality".
"I fully propose that we must exercise restraint and patience and commitment to solve these issues, these differences, by peaceful means. We must strictly observe the DOC," he said.
The Vietnamese general was referring to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a pact signed in 2002 by China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The Philippines accused China on Saturday of undermining peace and stability by allegedly sending naval vessels to intimidate rival claimants.
Manila cited incidents from February to May when the Chinese navy allegedly opened fire on Filipino fishermen, intimidated a Philippine oil exploration ship and put posts and a buoy in Philippines-claimed areas in the Spratlys.
In May, Chinese ships confronted a Vietnamese oil exploration vessel between the Paracels and Spratlys.
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Philippines says China undermining regional peace
Manila (AFP) June 4, 2011
The Philippines accused China on Saturday of undermining peace and stability in Asia by allegedly sending naval vessels to intimidate rival claimants in disputed sections of the South China Sea. Manila had protested over incidents in February to May, when the Chinese navy allegedly opened fire on Filipino fishermen, intimidated a Philippine oil exploration ship and put posts and a buoy in Ph ... read more
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